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Samsung Electronics claims to have shipped more than twice as many smartphones as Apple in the third quarter. Samsung shipped 55.5 million smartphones, up 109 percent from the third quarter of 2011, according to ABI Research.However observers say Apple’s iPhone is still the individual top-selling smartphone with about 27 million units sold in the quarter, followed by Samsung’s Galaxy S III flagship, which is believed to have sold around 18-20 million – Samsung does not provide a breakdown of sales of individual models, which include a number of models targeting the lower end of the market.

Total worldwide smartphone shipments increased 32.8 percent year-on-year to 155.5 million over the third quarter, but ABI says worldwide handset shipments – encompassing low-cost “feature phones as well as smartphones – were down 1.9 percent year-on-year at 387.3 million units.

Samsung maintained its position of leader in both handset and smartphone shipments. It shipped more than double the number of smartphones of second-place Apple.

“Samsung looks to be running away from the pack while Apple’s new product portfolio continues to eat into its decreasing gross margins,” said ABI senior analyst Michael Morgan. “Apple will need to ship over 94 million smartphones in Q4 if it wants to match its 2011 shipment growth of 96 percent.”

Nokia smartphone shipments declined 38 percent from Q2 2012 to 6.3 million, after the company revealed its current Lumia line of smartphones cannot be upgraded to the upcoming Windows Phone 8 software release.

With competing OEMs looking to take advantage of the Windows 8 platform, ABI said Nokia would have trouble remaining a top 10 smartphone OEM in Q4.

LG returned to profitability on the back of strong smartphone shipments, while Chinese maker ZTE showed the best year-on-year smartphone shipment growth of 168 percent. Blackberry maker RIM and Taiwan’s HTC both continued to struggle, with smartphone shipment declines of 37.2 and 54.6 percent respectively.

Smartphone shipments accounted for 40.2 percent of all handset shipments in Q3, up from 39.3 percent in the previous quarter.

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